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Online home-sharing platform Airbnb’s growth story has been nothing if not dramatic. From just two bookings in March 2008, the San Francisco start-up today has more than 5-million listings in 81,000 cities around the world. This growth has not gone unnoticed. The platform has disrupted property markets, pushing up prices for long-term rentals as property owners make accommodation available for short-term lease. As a result, several cities, including New York, Amsterdam, Barcelona, London and Berlin, have moved to restrict Airbnb rentals by setting limits to availability and requiring registration from hosts. But a paper by Shirley Nieuwland and Rianne van Melik, academics at Radboud University in the Netherlands, questions the effectiveness of such regulation. It says regulating Airbnb is difficult because it requires private hosts to be held responsible rather than businesses — something that is hard to police.

Nieuwland and Van Melik say approaches vary from full prohibition...

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